Boat Repairs in San Diego

We arrived in San Diego a couple of days earlier than planned in order to get some repairs done for the issues I described recently. Boomer and his crew of two helpers showed up after receiving the necessary parts and went to work on fixing the leak on the new autopilot steering pump, installing a replacement for old, leaking steering pump, and replacing the coupling for the bow thruster. It was actually a bit scary to see Boomer disappear deep in the forward bilge to get at the thuster coupling. There is no way I would have been able to get in there, much less get out. After a long, hot day’s worth of work, we had a working bow thruster and two brand new autopilot steering pumps. The next day we did a sea trial around the harbor to make sure that all was well. Everything was good, so we were ready to go.

The new autopilot steering pumps mounted in the Lazarette.

We also had an issue with the stabilizers, which I THOUGHT we had fixed on the way down to San Diego. Briefly, the stabilizers on our boat are a pair of fins mounted on the hull of our boat. They are moved through a complex electical and hydraulic control system to counteract the rolling motion induced by waves. The stabilizer circuit breaker mysteriously started tripping, shutting off the control circuitry, and therefore, the use of the stabilizers. We actually discovered this on our run from Marina Del Rey to Alamitos Bay and spent a couple of hours underway without the stabilizers working. Even though the conditions were mild, we realized that we’d really rather have them working. After consultation with fellow owners on the Nordhavn Owners Group and Ernie Romeo, it appeared that the circuit breaker was undersized for the new power supply that was installed this summer. So, I changed the breaker, and everything worked just fine on the remaining legs down to San Diego. Of course, there was the nagging question of why the breaker had not tripped before….

As Gwen mentioned, we prepared to depart San Diego for Ensenada this morning, only to find that the breaker started tripping AGAIN. We turned around after getting less than 100 yards from the dock and tried to figure out what was wrong. It was clear that the circuit was not overloaded – the 20 Amp breaker was tripping with a measured 8.5 Amps of load. Now thoroughly confused, I decided to call Boomer – actually expecting to leave him a message. I just happened to catch him on the way in to work, and he came right over to the boat. He started troubleshooting and I was helping him recreate the problem, when suddenly, the stabilizers were not working at all – there was no hydraulic pressure. Boomer discovered the culprit, which was a failed main relay for the hydraulic system. This relay allows the hydraulic system to become pressurized and move the stabilizer fins. In a stroke of good luck, Boomer happened to have a spare relay at the shop. Replacing that and a fuse that blew when the relay failed finally fixed the stabilizer problem once and for all (I hope).

The failed relay at left and the fuse at right.

So, one more night in San Diego and we hope to rejoin the CUBAR group down in Ensenada tomorrow (October 31).

The Odyssey Continues…

We’ve spent the last 9 days in San Diego, soaking up some hot weather and getting LOTS of boat chores and work done. Today was departure for Mexico day.

Tunamen’s Memorial on Shelter Island.

Most our nights were at the San Diego Harbor Police Dock on Shelter Island, but not because we were arrested. It is a bargain place to stay as a public dock, and one of the only places available when we made reservations a month ago. San Diego is full of boats staging for entry into Mexico around November 1, either with CUBAR as we are doing, the much larger sailboat version called the Baha Haha, or just going on their own. Marine insurance companies won’t allow boats to be in the hurricane zone in most of Mexico until November 1st when hurricane season officially ends, which leads to this bunching up of folks waiting to go.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Vessel. If you look really closely you can see one of their underwater vehicles on deck.

On walks around Shelter Island, various entertaining sites.

Larry loved this.
Friendship Bell from San Diego’s sister city Yokohama in Japan. I was surprised to see that this gift was made in the 1950s so soon after WWII.

Most of the time we have been here it has been unusually warm for this time of year according to the locals, up to 90 degrees. We have loved it, but one related effect is the Santa Ana winds, which are blowing in localized areas in California and causing sudden and terrible fires. The last two days we have periodically smelled smoke and seen haze from the Los Angeles fire.

CUBAR (Cruise Underway to Baja Rally) officially kicked off with registration last week, and a Captain’s meeting and dinner at the San Diego Yacht Club last night.

San Diego Yacht Club

After listening to various weather reports, we decided to depart early this morning after hearing about the Santa Ana winds that would affect part of our day’s cruise, but not be more than 25 knots. We were up and out at 6am, then had a deflating return to the dock when our stabilizer breaker kept popping. But luck was with us and we were able to find the source through the ingenious and speedy service call from Boomer (more to come on all of this from Larry) and we were on our way again at 9:15am.

Exiting the harbor we passed a US Navy destroyer up close and personal, which made former navy officer and Miss Miranda crew Sean very happy. They called us on the radio and at first I thought we were in trouble, but they just wanted us to hold our course.

Photo credit to Sean. Lots of military vessels around us this week!

Soon after that we got several texts and messages from CUBAR participants who had left early in the morning. They were experiencing 50 knot winds, and one had decided to turn around and come back. We made a speedy decision to return and wait the winds out, which are supposed to be much better tomorrow morning. So we will be a day late entering Ensanada, but we will still be there for Halloween and the Day of the Dead!

Paddle boarding witches!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Southern California

We’ve stayed at several great spots on our way to San Diego. We are fortunate that a number of yacht clubs let us stay on their dock for a night or two as reciprocals from Seattle Yacht Club. It’s fun to see the variety of clubs large and small on the California coast. I have to remind myself that there are millions more people in California than in Washington, and hundreds of miles of coastline, good reasons for the plethora of clubs!

Mylar Balloons are a Scourge

As we were coming down from Santa Barbara, I saw a funny looking item floating in the water. It was pink, which is not a color used by fishermen on floats. We got closer and realized it was a balloon. I wanted to grab it to prevent it from winding up in the gullet of a whale or dolphin.

Three balloons retrieved from the water. I regret that we couldn’t get more.

As we headed in, we retrieved more, but could not get all we saw as winds were picking up and we needed to get in to port. I thought there must have been a party that lost control of its balloons, but the manager of the yacht club told me it is such a scourge they have a monthly contest for who can pick up the most balloons, and the prize is Prime Rib dinner for two! Every month!

Marina Del Rey

We stayed two nights at the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, a gigantic man-made boat basin that holds over 6,000 boats. They assigned us their end-tie guest slip so docking without the use of our bow thruster was not a problem.

After trying unsuccessfully to arrange for a diver to investigate the underwater tunnel of our bow thrusters, I flagged down one of the many divers zooming around the basin and he was very kind to take a look, and verified there was nothing in there.

Very nice diver checking the bow thruster tunnel.

That afternoon we hopped on our bikes and rode the path to Venice Beach and beyond to the Santa Monica pier. Venice was both seedier than we thought it would be, and much less active, despite it being in the 70s and sunny. It was a weekday though, and I expect even Southern Californians do have to work.

The pier reminded us of Coney Island.
The swarming of pigeons and seagulls felt like The Birds!


Yesterday we got in pretty early to Oceanside. It’s a much smaller boat basin, for less than 1,000 boats and no super yacht sized boats. The harbor shares the oceanfront with Camp Pendleton, the largest Marine base on the West Coast.

We walked around the circumference of the marina to the beach, never finding the long boardwalk that we had read about. I suspect that our guidebook is becoming out of date since it was published 12 years ago.

Looking out from the Oceanside Yacht Club deck.
Miss Miranda at the end-tie.

The sea lions have become an increasing presence as we make our way down the coast. We have seen them lounging on docks and finger piers. We were serenaded all night by their barking at Oceanside.

The sea lion float. Quite odoriferous downwind.

Today we will make it San Diego and a week of preparations for our Mexico departure on the 30th!

More Mechanical Issues

We are in Marina Del Rey, California enjoying the hospitality of the California Yacht Club, where we are on the guest dock. It is an end tie, which is a good thing for us because yesterday our bow thruster died. We were pulling out of Ventura Yacht Club yesterday morning, backing down the fairway and using the bow thruster to keep us straight in the narrow channel. Suddenly we started hearing a loud grinding noise as we engaged the thruster. Not good. We were out of the fairway, so were able to move on with normal steering control. On our approach to Marina Del Rey, Gwen spotted several mylar balloons and we decided to pick them up… good maneuvering practice. In swinging the boat around, I tried to use the thruster and more noise, no thrust, and soon, it seemed to lock up. Not good… not good at all. We proceeded into Marina Del Rey and had no problems getting on to the CYC end tie.

Coming into Marina Del Rey on a beautiful afternoon. Big Marina, BIG Yachts…

Soon after arriving I had a call from Ernie Romeo at ABT TRAC. I had been texting with California expat Devin Zwick of Nordhavn Northwest to see if he knew of any thruster experts in the area… he called TRAC as we were bringing the boat in (thanks, Devin!). Ernie suggested that we get a diver to see if there are any obstructions of the props and reckoned based on my description of the symptoms that the coupling from the motor to the props would be the likely failure point. I was pleasantly astonished to learn that the three parts to be replaced totaled less then $300, downright cheap as boat stuff goes. Ernie also suggested a service guy in Marina Del Rey, who we could not get in touch with, and one in San Diego, with whom we spoke and arranged a service visit next week. We have a diver recommended by CYC coming to look at the props today… maybe something got stuck in the thruster tunnel.

The ABT TRAC bow thruster, deep in the bilge. This does not look like fun.

It turns out that the very same technician will also work on our autopilot pumps. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we installed a back up autopilot system… which we needed, because the steering pump for the primary autopilot developed a leak which drained nearly half the steering fluid over the run from Neah Bay to Brookings. From Brookings, we switched over to the backup autopilot, and all was good…. except that the new steering pump also had a leak, though minor. After much wrangling by Ian, our project manager at Philbrooks, with Kobelt, the pump manufacturer, they agreed to send a technician out to fix the leak with the new pump under warranty when we arrive in San Diego. We also decided to replace the old, leaking pump. However, the Kobelt dealer does not install pumps. They recommended a local technician in San Diego that was the very same guy recommended by ABT TRAC to service our bow thruster. Very convenient.

So the new plan is to make our way down to San Diego for a Monday arrival. We will stop in Long Beach and Oceanside along the way and will visit the Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego on Monday before arriving at the Police Dock on Wednesday. We will connect with the technician on Tuesday to begin the repairs. An oft-quoted saying is “Cruising is repairing the boat in exotic places”. I am not sure Southern California qualifies as exotic, but there surely are worse places to be…

Sightseeing in California

We spent a couple of much needed rest days in Santa Barbara, and also got to visit with some friends from our Wisconsin days who had moved there years ago! Thank you both Maria and Dave for some wonderful meals and local perspectives.

Looking from the breakwater in Santa Barbara out to the hills and marina.

After sleeping a lot of the first day, broken up by a sushi lunch on the pier and walk out the breakwater, we got out around town the second day.

We visited the Santa Barbara courthouse, one of the most highly recommended sites in town. Beautiful Spanish style construction, and still a working courthouse.

Cool ceiling shot.
An open air hallway. Can’t do this in Seattle!

Instead of proceeding to another sight-seeing spot, I agreed with Larry that sidewalk people watching and having a local beer seemed like a good idea. We hung out on State Street doing that, and were thrilled to see a Farmer’s Market get set up for that evening. I proceeded to buy lots of gorgeous local produce and some pasture raised meat from Fess Parker Ranch. (We ate the NY Strip steak last night and it was one of the best we have ever had!) I should have taken pictures of all the vegetable stands but my hands were too full.

Dinner with Maria was at a local Middle Eastern place called Zaytoon, recommended by our friend Alan from Seattle, that she also loves. We highly recommend it too – lovely outside patio with firepit tables that kept us comfortable in the cool evening breeze. Food uniformly fantastic.

Palm trees lining Ventura Harbor.

Yesterday we made a short hop over to Ventura where we could stage our next leg and also get free reciprocal moorage at the Ventura Yacht Club. We much appreciate the availability of a spot and the hospitality.

On the dock at Ventura Yacht Club.

In the afternoon the winds picked up quite a bit so we were glad to be in the harbor. We visited the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center and walked out on the beach.

Those figures in the distance are surfers done for the day.

I had not been aware of this national park before – it is a series of islands that have a number of plants and animals that are unique to these islands. The waters around the islands are marine park. The island life was decimated in the early 1900s by the introduction of livestock and ranching, but since becoming protected and the removal of non-native species, have made some dramatic recoveries.

Larry directing the life guards.

Catalina Island off of San Diego is another of the Channel Islands, but not part of the park. We hope to spend a few days there, but that is going to be weather dependent. Today we are heading to Marina Del Rey, where we will probably stay for two nights and see if we can head over to Catalina on Saturday after some winds pass through.

Mermaid guarding the harbor.

Arrival in Santa Barbara!

It is 5:30 am Monday morning and we have just pulled into the Arrivals dock in the Santa Barbara Harbor to await a slip assignment (hopefully!) – they are first come first serve, but still had two slips at 5pm last night. If they don’t, we will anchor.

To all our insomniac friends, thank you for coming along with us on the journey through your text messages and emails! We love having your company during dark nights. Now get some rest.

Looking to the head of the Arrivals dock.

570 nautical miles and 69 hours from our departure from Brookings, numerous Point passings and 3 really nice days and uneventful nights. Whale sightings too numerous to count. Several sea lions and lots of pelicans. Dolphins swimming on our bow for an hour last night while I slept. Lots of ramen noodles, frozen burritos and frozen leftovers.

Larry napping on the calmest day.

We passed San Francisco near sunset but it was hazy and we had to dodge cargo traffic. No stunning view of the Golden Gate bridge, but a fabulous sunset.

Moonrise over San Francisco
Sunset off San Francisco. The cargo ship looks tiny there but by the time we cleared the harbor behind another one it was within a mile or two of us, picking up its pilot to enter the harbor.

I don’t have any pictures of this but there are numerous oil wells off the coast now. It is a weird site to see these huge hulking brightly lit towers appear on the horizon. We gave them a wide berth.

We will spend a couple of days here exploring, sleeping and enjoying the warm weather!

At the Dock in Brookings

Our first day in Brookings we worked away on the standard tasks like cleaning up what had become a messy dirty boat. It’s kind of hard to vacuum or do much in the way of dishes when we are rolling around. Not to mention, our trash compactor had shorted out while compacting just after leaving Neah Bay and we had to wait until we were back on shore power to be able to open it again so our trash had accumulated.

It was a bit smelly on the transient docks. We were the only pleasure boat amongst the fishing boats that were also taking refuge from the weather. But, it wasn’t as bad as it was in Petersburg this summer with the cannery running full blast! This was a working commercial dock. No amenities other than the fuel dock and a huge dusty parking lot full of hundreds of crab pots. Very economical spot for us.

View from our stern to our neighbor.

We were right across from the Coast Guard station, and had full view of their basketball court. It’s a good thing they are so good at rescuing people because they could not earn a living playing basketball.

You can see both of the Coast Guard boats peaking out here. They were across the channel from us.

The first night we watched them doing exercises in the channel in front of us clearly practicing tying up to and towing another boat. They move fast!

The red small craft warning flag flying in the wind at the Coast Guard station. This was finally gone Friday morning when we departed.

We walked to explore the marina area and around the jetty to the beach side. The beach was the prime scenic view in the marina area. It felt wonderful to walk with short sleeves and feel the sun on our skin. We are definitely moving into the land of summer.

We several excellent shrimp meals out at two nearby places. Local shrimp are in season and are good-sized and very tasty.

A parking lot neighbor to us. Don’t worry Mom, we did not have any tattoo emergencies.

Our friend Judy, half of our friends Stuart and Judy from Anacortes, picked us up for shore leave to spend a night at her home and graciously chauffeured us around on supply errands and to the Redwood forest, which I have always wanted to see.

Panoramic shot attempt to capture the entire height of one of these majestic trees.
It was amazing to stand next to these gigantic stumps from fallen (not logged) trees.
Amazing bark overgrowth resembling a face! Must have been quite an infection or injury that made it grow so exuberantly.

Overall a fantastic stop!


We were walking by the commercial basin this morning when we saw a sign for Tuna off the boat.

Buying Tuna off the boat.

F/V EZC was selling flash frozen Albacore Tuna for $3 a pound, plus another $6 to have the deckhands clean the fish. Too good to resist, so I had them do a 14 lb fish for us, which they estimated would yield about 7 lbs of filet.

The far deckhand is cleaning my fish.

We got to chatting and I mentioned that we were heading to Mexico on our boat. They said we should try trolling for Tuna (which we had planned to do when we got further South). The advice was simply to find 60+ degree water and troll a plug. I didn’t have one, so Captain Jimmy offered to put one together at his cost.

My $12 trolling rig.

He said we can even hand line the setup, just drop it back a little ways off the stern. They troll around 5 knots but said that even up around 8 knots we should be able to catch some. However, they recommended using a bungee cord at the boat end to absorb some of the shock of the strike.

Maybe we’ll try some off the coast if we find the right water temps.

Brookings, OR

Miss Miranda at the Transient dock in Brookings.

We arrived in Brookings on Monday, October 7th, after a very easy ride down from Port Orford. We knew that we would be here for a few days, as the forecast was for gale conditions along the Northern CA and Southern Oregon coast. Our friends and Anacortes neighbors Stuart and Judy have a place down here, and as it happened, Judy was in town while we were here. She took good care of us during our brief shore leave.

Crossing the Bar

All of the ports along the Pacific coast of Washington and Oregon are at the mouths of rivers, and all have a “bar” to cross, which is a shallow zone where the river outflow meets the ocean. It can be quite hazarous to cross a bar when conditions are poor, and it is always recommended to cross as the tide is rising (towards the end of the flood). We timed our arrival for the beginning of the flood and approached Brookings with some apprehension… this was our first bar crossing. We did not have time to take any photos on the way in, but got this one looking back out when we arrived.

The bar at Brookings just after we arrived.

As you can see, the only hazard was all of the fishing boats trolling in the entrance channel as we were trying to come in. We went straight down the middle, and fortunately, the boats moved (barely) out of the way.

Maintenance and Mechanical Issues

When we arrived it was time to change the oil on the main engine. The oil change interval is every 250 hours, and the last time we changed was in Hoonah, AK this summer. This change should be good for the remainder of the run down to Mexico. We have a built in oil transfer pump, so it is a pretty easy job. The biggest issue is finding the used oil disposal facility, which is right over in the boatyard.

One of the nicer oil disposal facilities that we’ve seenn.

As we were doing a general mechanical inspection after the long run, we noticed that there was steering fluid leaking from one of the autopilot pumps. It is not obvious where the leak is coming from… the fittings and hoses are all completely dry.

The yellow color on the oil absorbent pad is steering fluid. Uh oh…

We cleaned up the area thoroughly and put down new pads. I cycled the pump a bunch of times to see if I could reproduce the leak, but no luck. I know the pump worked REALLY hard on the trip down, especially when we had big following seas. It turned out that it had leaked about a quart of steering fluid over the nearly 48 hours of continuous operation.

The astute reader will notice that there are two autopilot pumps in the photo above. We had a second, independent Autopilot system installed just in case of this type of problem. In consultation with the yard, we decided that on the next leg, we will run the primary autopilot until we can detect signs of leakage, and then switch to the backup autopilot. We also picked up another gallon of steering fluid in case more refills of the reservior were required.

Using the backup autopilot is fine… except that we have been experiencing problems with the new heading sensor (which tells the autopilot the direction the boat is moving in). We noticed that occassionally and unpredictably, the heading would be off by as much as 30 degrees. After more consultation with the yard, I discovered that the cause of this heading error was electrical interference from one of our DC circuits – the one that serves the lights in the master cabin. Turn that breaker off, and you can see the heading return to normal (in this case from 333 deg magnetic to 308 deg). Turn it back on, and the heading slowly increased back up to 333. Needless to say, this was not ideal placement of the heading sensor, but for now we will simply turn the breaker off while underway.

The Next Leg

It looks like a very good weather window is opening up starting on Friday. Our goal will be to move as far south as possible during that time. The major obstacles between here and sunny Southern California are the notorious Cape Mendocino, about 120 miles S of us, and then Point Conception, West of Santa Barbara. We are considering a straight shot from here to Santa Barbara, which is about 560 NM and about 3 days of 24/7 running. The other alternative would be to get to Monterey, which is about 375 NM and 2 days run. We will discuss with our weather router before we head out and then make an assessment along the way.

Much Better!

We left the windy, rolly anchorage at Port Orford this morning heading for Brookings.

As you can see, winds are way down from the 30+ we saw yesterday and the swell is long behind us. We are not making 9.7 knots consistently, but rather surfing down the swells.

Crew is happy, listening to newly discovered Storm Weather Shanty Choir.

Experimenting with post by email feature.